Sunday, December 21, 2014

Plans for Deal Me In 2015 and a Giveaway

2015 is a notable year in the world of the American short story. 100 years ago, in 1915, Edward O'Brien began the annual Best American Short Stories (BASS) collection. This collection (which, interestingly enough, was not published in a book, but was serialized in a magazine in its first year of existence) was O'Brien's attempt to encourage American authors to "raise the stakes," as it were, on their stories and make them more literary in nature. Looking back over the past 100 years of the American short story, I'd say the seed he planted has blossomed into full fruit.

An early advertisement for the series

I was unaware of the antiquity of this treasure trove of stories and its history until recently. I know that the Best American Short Stories of the Century volume (edited in part by John Updike) showcases the best of the best from the past 100 years, but that got me to wondering -- if they are ALL the best, then undoubtedly there are more gems to be discovered. So I have decided to make my Deal Me In selections for 2015 all from volumes of BASS, in honor of the series' centenary.

And before I get started, I want to give a shout-out to Jakon Hays' highly interesting blog Years of the B.A.S.S. -- you need to check it out and marvel at his project to read his way through the entire century of collections. It was his blog in part that gave me the inspiration for my 2015 Deal Me In roster sourcing.

AND, while I am giving credit where credit is due, the whole Deal Me In extravaganza is cheerfully led by Jay at Bibliophilopolis -- correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is his fifth year of being the Deal Me In ringleader. (That makes it sound like some kind of crime syndicate -- but we're innocent, copper!! Honest!) Here is Jay's sign-up post for the 2015 challenge.

The four suits of the deck will correspond to The Best American Short Stories collections from the following years (with my corresponding life events):

Spades, 1964: the auspicious year of my birth (no significance to the choice of suit here; it was merely the one left over after I assigned the other three);
Clubs, 1986: the year I graduated from college (you join lots of clubs in college, right??);
Hearts, 1989: the year I was married (obvious connection to the suit here);
Diamonds, 1994: the year I finished my Ph.D. and got my first "real" job (finally making MONEY!! and another obvious connection to the suit)

There are probably other years I could have chosen, but these seemed to rise to the top of the list, and they are spaced out enough that I think they will give me a good flavor of how short stories may have changed throughout the course of my life.

None of these volumes are in print any longer, nor are they easily accessible electronically, as far as I can figure out. But I was able to find good quality used copies via the various sellers on Amazon. Let's take a look at what I bought (all four for less than $20, including shipping):


Here's 1964 -- I was shocked that this was a "regular" paperback, but after all, the modern editions are in the so-called "trade paperback" format, which was unknown in 1964. And it was 75 cents a copy, which is unknown today.

The contents of the 1964 volume:
“The broomstick on the porch” by Frieda Arkin
“Mr. Iscariot” by Richard G. Brown
“To a tenor dying old” by John Stewart Carter
“A story of love, etc.” by Daniel Curley
“The woman across the street” by May Dikeman
“A long day's dying” by William Eastlake
“Figure over the town” by William Goyen
“Black snowflakes” by Paul Horgan
“The pump” by William Humphrey
“Birthday party” by Shirley Jackson
“The power” by Edith Konecky
“Mule no. 095” by Kimon Lolos
“The German refugee” by Bernard Malamud
“Sucker” by Carson McCullers
“Simple arithmetic” by Virginia Moriconi
“Upon the sweeping flood” by Joyce Carol Oates
“The names and faces of heroes” by Reynolds Price
“Waiting for Jim” by Vera Randal
“A story for Teddy” by Harvey Swados
“Have you seen Sukie?” by Robert Penn Warren


And 1986:

The contents of the 1986 volume:
"Basil from Her Garden" by Donald Barthelme
"Gryphon" by Charles Baxter
"Janus" by Ann Beattie
"The Convict" by James Lee Burke
"Star Food" by Ethan Canin
"Gossip" by Frank Conroy
"Communist" by Richard Ford
"Bad Company" by Tess Gallagher
"Today Will Be a Quiet Day" by Amy Hempel
"Doe Season" by David Michael Kaplan
"Three Thousand Dollars" by David Lipsky
"Sportsmen" by Thomas McGuane
"All My Relations" by Christopher McIlroy
"Monsieur Les Deux Chapeaux" by Alice Munro
"Skin Angels" by Jessica Neely
"Invisible Life" by Kent Nelson
"Telling" by Grace Paley
"Lawns" by Mona Simpson
"Health" by Joy Williams
"The Rich Brother" by Tobias Wolff


And 1989:

The contents of the 1989 volume:
“Fenstad's Mother” by Charles Baxter
“Customs of the country” by Madison Smartt Bell
“Living to be a hundred” by Robert Boswell
“The black hand girl” by Blanche McCrary Boyd
“Kubuku Riders (This is it)” by Larry Brown
“Ralph the Duck” by Frederick Busch
“White angel” by Michael Cunningham
“The Flowers of boredom” by Rick DeMarinis
“Edie: a life” by Harriet Doerr
“The concert party” by Mavis Gallant
“Why I decide to kill myself and other jokes” by Douglas Glover
“Disneyland” by Barbara Gowdy
“Aunt Moon's young man” by Linda Hogan
“Displacement” by David Wong Louie
“The management of grief” by Bharati Mukherjee
“Meneseteung” by Alice Munro
“What men love for” by Dale Ray Phillips
“Strays” by Mark Richard
“The boy on the train” by Arthur Robinson
“The letter writer” by M.T. Sharif


And 1994:

The contents of the 1994 volume:
"This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" by Sherman Alexie
"Hammam" by Carol Anshaw
"Samel" by Robert Olen Butler
"Pipa's Story" by Lan Samantha Chang
"Where I Work" by Ann Cummings
"In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark
"We Didn't" by Stuart Dybek
"The Prophet from Jupiter" by Tony Earley
"Proper Library" by Carolyn Ferrell
"The Voyage Out" by John Rolfe Gardiner
"The Mail Lady" by David Gates
"Nicodemus Bluff" by Barry Hannah
"Cold Snap" by Thom Jones
“The Chasm" by John Keeble
"Landscape and Dream" by Nancy Krusoe
"Fur” by Laura Glen Louis
"Melungeons" by Chris Offutt
"Mr. Sumarsono" by Roxana Robinson
"Battling Against Castro" by Jim Shepard
"Things Left Undone" by Christopher Tilghman
"From Shanghai" by Jonathan Wilson


So now, let's talk about a giveaway. I love blog giveaways although I rarely win them. Hopefully you do too. But more importantly, I hope you think this is a pretty interesting reading plan for 2015, and I hope you would like to help me out with some choices.

Here's the deal: I already have quite a few ideas about which stories to pick from each year's anthology, but to be honest, my choices are made on the basis of: an interesting title, or the author's reputation (neither of which may have anything to do with how good a particular story will be, even though these ARE supposed to be the "best"). Thus, I figure my blog readers can help out immensely here, in giving me suggestions of not-to-be-missed stories from these volumes.

Sound good? OK, then -- here's the giveaway rules.
  1. Leave a comment below telling me at least ONE story you think I should read from EACH volume. This entire comment will count as one entry.
  2. If you suggest more than one story from each volume, I will count your comment again in a second entry.
  3. If you help me publicize the giveaway on your blog or Twitter feed, this will count as a third entry. Of course, you will need to provide some kind of proof that you have done this. If necessary, you can send screenshots, links, or whatever kind of proof is appropriate to "randallkharris AT 'gee-mail' DOT...." (you know the rest).
I will keep track of all the entries and put them in a big (digital) hat. Then I will use a random number generator to pick the winner, who will receive a $25 Amazon gift card. That is, the winner will receive a gift card IF I am provided with a way to get in touch with him or her. The winner will be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to his or her win, and then if I am not provided with contact information, the rest of the entries will go back in the hat and we'll try again. I'll lather, rinse, and repeat until I find a communicative winner.

The deadline for all entries, for obvious reasons, will be midnight CST on December 31, 2014. I'll announce a winner on New Year's Day 2015 (as well as my finalized Deal Me In roster of stories).

I hope I get lots of suggestions and that we all have fun helping to put my roster together. Let's go!!


  1. What a great idea to use the BASS volumes - and a better idea to use ones from "significant years" of your life. I enjoy the BASS series and have used many of their stories for my DMIs. (I was reading from one at lunch the other day, and a friend at work inquired about. When I explained the book and series he asked me to let him know when I was done reading the collection what story I thought was "the best of the best.") I also have the Updike edited best of the century volume. It was actually given to me as a gift from a local reader of my blog who also is in a book discussion group I frequent. To date, it remains the only tangible remuneration I have ever received for writing my blog. And you're right, 2015 is the fifth year I've been doing the challenge,. The first couple years I was the only one doing it though.

    Okay, so for the giveaway, here are my suggestions. I don't think I've read one from every volume and some of the ones I've read I wouldn't recommend, necessarily, so here are some choices for mostly random reasons...

    1964: Birthday Party (can't go wrong with Shirley Jackson)
    1986: Monsieur Les Deux Chapeaux (also can't go wrong withAlice Munro)
    1989: The Black Hand Girl (for the intriguing title)
    1994: In the Gloaming (because I've always liked the word Gloaming) :-)

    I'll also tweet out a link, as I plan to do to all DMI participants' rosters.

    Have you found (like I have) that the planning of a good DMI is almost as fun as the execution?

    Happy Holidays!

    1. Many thanks! And you are absolutely right about the planning being one of the most fun parts -- I have been putting this post together for about a month now, and the actual creation of the roster may come as a slight let-down. :-)

  2. I think you can go wrong with Sherman Alexie. I've got my own, second round, of short stories set up for the new year. I love this little, short, chalenge.

    1. Thanks!! I have a feeling that Alexie would definitely find his way onto my roster no matter what.

  3. I didn't know the series was that old either!

    For stories, I'd go with:
    1964 - “The German refugee” by Bernard Malamud
    1986 - "The Rich Brother" by Tobias Wolff
    (Both are authors I got a taste of in college. Although, wow, Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates both in the 1964 volume. Good year!)

    1989 - “Why I decide to kill myself and other jokes” by Douglas Glover
    1994 - "Nicodemus Bluff" by Barry Hannah
    (Both on basis of title.)

  4. Great idea for your DMI list. I have the Best of the Century and a significant number of my 2105 stories came from it.

    From your lists, the story that jumps out at me is "Mr. Isacariot" by Richard G. Brown - based only on the interesting title.

    I have Bernard Malamud's "The German Refugee" and Alice Elliot Dark's "In the Gloaming" on my 2015 list, so I'll recommend those, too.

    I'm looking forward to your seeing your final list and reading your posts!

  5. Wow... I had know idea the BASS series was that old. I chose one of my DMI 2015 suits from the Best of the Century volume from 2000 that you mention. Now I am doubly glad I did so!

    Thanks so much for the link to the Years of the B.A.S.S. page. What an incredibly cool project! I'm going to get lost in that blog.

    Hmm... As for stories, I would recommend:

    1964: "Birthday Party" by Shirley Jackson (because I adore her)
    1986: "Basil from Her Garden" by Donald Barthelme (because I just discovered him during DMI this year and enjoyed reading him very much)
    1989: “The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee (because Mukherjee is such a powerful writer)
    1994: "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" by Sherman Alexie (because Alexie never fails to make me laugh and cry...often simultaneously)

    Best of luck with your challenge roster!

    1. Thanks for your comments and the suggestions!!